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  1. [​IMG]

    Here in the Great Lakes there are several decent windows for catching steelhead.
    For the "Upper Lakes" fall is a great opportunity when fishable numbers come in to feast on salmon roe. Some of these fish will winter-over in deeper holes, but most are quite lethargic and need to be coaxed. A slow/deep presentation consisting of jigs tipped with waxies, skein and wigglers will pull them out. Pulling plugs is another option. We create a wall of baits and push the hole. Most hits will come as the "wall" nears the back of the run.

    My favorite time is toward the end of Winter, just prior to the Spring run-off. Most of our rivers experience a blow-out as the snow pack melts. Granted the increase in flow does draw fish, but it makes many rivers unfishable for weeks at a time. As the water returns to normal the numbers are there, but so are the crowds

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    Dams create an upstream limit and even the ones with fish ladders have a tendancy to pile up fish since most of them won't climb the ladder until the water warms into low the 40's.

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    The opportunities are endless. Even some of the Urban rivers sport decent decent returns

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    Time to spool the reels, sharpen hooks, grease the trailer bearings and get ready!
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    I'm often asked what my go-to bass fly is. Well, there's several I won't be without depending on conditions and forage, but the Calcasieu Pig Boat is usually the first to get wet, especially once the water warms.
    It was Tom Nixon that developed it back in 1951. I have toyed with several variations and even went as far as weighting them quite heavily and adding bulk in order to "push" more water. The rubber legs are always on the move even while sinking.

    2/0 stainless hook
    .025 lead
    hackle
    chenille
    rubber legs
    acrylic paint
    epoxy

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    Cover the lead with thread

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    Add a tail (I used 3 hackles per side)

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    Tie in some rubber legs (folded and secured). Add a large hackle feather tied in tip first bugger style and wrap the chenille forward.

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    Palmer the hackle forward and start shaping the head with thread

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    Start adding the rubber collar. I do that in sets of 2's and fold them over the thread. This will actually give you 4 legs at a time.

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    Epoxy the head and let it dry. Paint the eyes and you're done

    Color combinations are endless.

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    I normally fish these on a 9wt with a floating line, 300 grain sinktip or a class V full sinker depending on conditions

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    Won't be long, ice-out!

    For the last 6 years "specs" have become my favorite target on the fly rod. Some years are better than others, but we always manage a trophy or two a season. We have caught them as early as the end of March and right into Summer, but that's when it gets tough locating them and getting down, even with full sinking lines.

    I start with small offerings like micro clousers tied to a floating line or a light sinktip (200 grain) depending on the depth or mood of the fish

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    A floating line allows for a slower presentation, but if the crappies are hugging the bottom or suspend deeper than 4-6' the sinker is the only way to keep the fly in the zone.

    Short 2-3" strips with a few seconds in between animates the offering enough to trigger a hit. Some hits are brutal, but most come across like a hesitation or the feel of a weed.

    As the water warms into the mid-40's I'll increase the size of the bugs and the speed of the strip

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    This is also the time when bass start using the areas for pre-spawn staging. We usually end up with a mixed bag. I recommend going with a heavier leader (6#) than during the early season where 2-4 pound tippets work best

    Here's my personal best. It taped just short of the magic 16"

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    Nice drops with lumber are ideal, but I have found them in uneventful bowls, that some anglers may overlook

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  4. Finally after several pattern changes and trying different sections below the fast water, I found them. The floodwater must have taken its toll on the fish. The were concentrated on the soft edges of eddies and not in the regular feeding lanes. We found the same true in every stop we made.

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    The fish weren't huge, but quite feisty, loved to hug the bottom and provided a decent fight.

    This one ended up fish of the day. It taped out around 14 and took a size 18 beadhead. I switched over to midges after seeing some flashes of activity in the depth of a pool. There was quite the hatch, but not much surface action.

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    How the fish survive on such small forage is beyond me. Much like trying to fill up on fondue (sp).

    Here's the flies that produced the majority of the fish.

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    And a few additional scenery shots. Some of the walls were 250' above the river.

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    It was almost spiritual to be surrounded by such beauty. The fish were only a bonus.
  5. What an incredible trip

    After a Southwestern brunch consisting of smoked brisket, BBQ'd chicken, ribz and the fixings, we hit the road on a long journey through the Northern mountainous region of Arizona. Several elevation changes made the drive a true pleasure. Just short of Flagstaff, Bill (my Brother-in-Law) and I made a stop to drain the lizzard and take on some fuel.

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    Once the elevation reached about 5200 the vegetation changed from desert shrubs and cactus to a coniferous mixture. Above 6000 Winter took over and all the hillsides were covered with snow. After driving through Flagstaff it was downhill toward the rim of the Grand Canyon. For the next 2+ hours our destination took us through Navajo territory. That in itself was worth the ride with only a sparse population of Indians and their housing nestled amoung the cliffs.
    We finally arrived at the Cliff Dwellers slightly after dusk. A quick milking of the guides, the purchase of a few local bugs, licenses and a brief run-through of the boat we rented, it was time to check in to the room and grab a bite to eat. The accommodation were adequate, the bar well stocked and the food very pleasing to the palate. A little more milking of the locals revealed a pretty good day of fishing and the fish were active after an experimental "Blow-out" that lasted 4 days. A river that generally runs between 5 and 10,000 cfs was cranked to 41,000 to restore some habitat in the Lower River for a Humpback Chub that is bordering extinction. Sleeping was difficult. Maybe it was Bill's snoring or perhaps the "night before Xmas" syndrome?

    Up before the crack, we discovered that they had placed high wind warnings for the day and 40+mph winds could put a dampener on our fishing. We grabbed breakfast and headed for the launch.

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    Here's our rig for the day. A wide 14 footer with a 40 horse pump.

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    A few others were preparing for a whitewater trip below the launch

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    After a 7 mile run upriver through some of the most breath-taking scenery we decided to start fishing. On the way up I noticed all of the guide boats concentrating their efforts just below the numerous riffles. Finding a spot similar in nature I pulled along a flat. We fished the upper portion of the riffle and did some searching with the recommended San Juans and scuds.

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    Here's Bill working some intermediate water.

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    To say the fishing was easy, would be a flat-out lie. These fish are very hatch specific and proved to be a challenge.

    more to come...
  6. I took her to a place they call the 3 Sisters. It's 3 springs within a small area and a place for the scuba divers to swim with them. Unfortunately most of the manatees had moved out to feed after being stuck in the spring for over week do to the temps.

    Again, much like the trout they were on a grassy point feeding.

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    We were surrounded

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    About 3 miles downstream of King's Bay the Crystal splits into the Salt River which also flows into the Gulf across an area dotted with numerous Islands and cuts. Like night and day, not a house in sight.

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    Here's a picture with the Crystal River Nuclear Plant in the back drop. Also a perfect place to fish this time of year, but it was shut down for maintenance.

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    My favorite picture!

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    New Year's eve was spent visiting some friends in nearby Inglis. A few of the boys (and girls) from Henning Park stay at an RV resort for the winter months. (lucky Dogs :rant: )

    Quite the party! Huge fire, drinks and....

    Some of you might recognize this guy

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    Yes, none other than Gary Burghoff of MASH fame.

    Pretty cool trip. I'm ready to go back
  7. What a trip considering the low temps that neared 100 years of keeping records

    King's Bay is the headwaters of the Crystal River fed by numerous springs that stay at a constant 72*, a perfect magnet for anything that swims in the Gulf. It is a destination for scuba divers from around the world with the opportunity to swim with the manatees.

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    We stayed at the Best Western in Crystal River. A perfect setting for the outdoorsman and their spouse. Boat rentals are available, along with pontoons and even guided trips for viewing manatees. A continental breakfast was included in the rate and they even allow pets at a nominal charge.

    Heated pool, spa and boat launch were all included. Boat slips were also available at 10 bucks a night.

    Nature's Coast Fly Shop is also within the complex along with Cracker's, an excellent restaurant for lunch, dinner and drinks. What a find!

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    Like mentioned above, the temps were not favorable, but the springs saved the trip. We arrived Christmas Day around noon and launched the bay boat. I had a chart and tide table, but the key was to find the springs. The entire month of December was way below average and many species got caught trying to migrate.

    Each spring was loaded with every species known to man trying to maintain a certain comfort level. Many are quite a bit deeper than the rest of the Bay, but I couldn't find any grass or cover for anything to feed on. Sure there were a few baitfish blitzes as mullet, needlefish and ladyfish tried to ease in to get warmth. The occasional school of tarpon could also be spotted. Some were over 1/2 the length of the boat, but no takers

    Many of the springs are cordoned off with buoys each year since they are wintering grounds for the protected manatees, but tidal currents allow one to fish the plumes as they are sucked out or pushed in. Swarms of ladyfish (also known as poor man's tarpon) could keep anyone busy, but keep in mind the way they attack prey and their teeth require either keeping up with your tippet or going up to 14lb test and prolonging re-tying, but I did loose a dozen bugs before figuring it out....lol Good thing saltwater fish aren't leader shy. Ladyfish would would smack the fly several times during the strip. The faster the strip, the more hook-ups. Although fun, it got old after the first 50 :lol: One decent one (28") took me into the backing and at first I thought it might be a small tarpon. I don't think it mattered what you used, but my Foxee Bitch and tinsel clouser worked very well.

    According to my dad, this was pre-spawn for spotted sea trout and a perfect opportunity to get into some gators. It took me a while to find them. They would be stacked in the springs, but with the lack of vegetation within, they would not participate. The key was to work adjacent grass flats as the tides moved the warmer water across them.

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    Also one had to get down and fast in order to dodge the ladies. My 9wt with a 300 grain sinktip worked very well in this situation.

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    The best fly I found was a 1/2 and 1/2 black silver bullet head.

    Finally on the third day I caught the flyshop while he was open and asked him if there's some kind of ladyfish repellant. "Nope, they're everywhere and we've been using 4wt's to make it fun." I told him that I have found some consistant trout action and he was very surprised, since even the shrimp fishermen had a tough time finding them. Chalk one up for the flydunker!!!

    My folks joined us for a day of fishing and sight-seeing.

    Mom was out for manatees

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    Continued...